We left San Pedro and made a beeline for the coast. It was only 2-1/2 hours away but it seemed to take forever in the straight line, monotone drone of the Atacama. At Tocopilla we lunched on fresh Soupa de Mariscos, dredging up oysters, clams and a few unidentifiable bits and pieces below the murky surface of the broth. As advertised by the patrons it was "muis rico."
Further up the coast we pulled off the road and found our home for the night. Camping is adding a dimension to this trip that would not otherwise have been attainable. We overdosed on surf, sand and sun and let the incoming tide lull us to sleep, into a deep and satisfying slumber not achievable in any hotel.
Early the next morning we found we had camped a few short kilometers from Huanillos, a very complete ghost town. We could have dined on ghost vapor and fought off long lost spirits of the dead. This appeared to be an abandoned salt mine from perhaps the early 1900's harboring over a hundred workers. The boss's mansion sat perched on an overlook commanding both a view of the sea and the mining operation he controlled. He suffered little discomfort I am sure.
I have always said that if you combine motorcycles with mountains, volcanoes and scantily clad women you have reached nirvana...that elusive 'G' spot that most couples strive to experience at least once in their lives. If you combine motorcycles with at least one of the above than you approach nirvana. That is what we did today.
Beside the coast was a mountain. On the mountain was a road...or at least a facimile thereof. I passed it by, but the draw was strong. I tried to resist but I couldn't. I returned to the junction and surveyed the ascending scar along the face of the mountain. With saliva beginning to flow I raced through the gears in a mad quest to chase the road up the mountain and over it onto the altiplano.
The situation was not unlike a similar event Peter and I endured while crossing the Salar de Uyuni a few years ago. The altitude was not as extreme but the conditions were similar. A slash barely ten feet wide marked the road. The inside track was soft and partially drifted. The outside track a mere two feet from a sheer drop-off to the coastal plain below. We ground our way upwards fighting switchbacks that were too tight to negotiate in a single pass. Finally perched at an obscene angle we stopped to evaluate the sanity of the situation. Was it the wisdom of our years that caused us to return to the pavement? Or, was it simply a lack of courage? I know my wife would have questioned my sanity. Peter would have questioned my courage. I simply called it a wise decision.
A few kilometers down the coast I found a lovely restaurant and dined with the knowledge I had made the right decision.
The Road from Hell intersected the highway again not far from the restaurant. This segment was paved as it afforded access to the salt mine "Mina Chica" some twenty kilometers inland. We chased the easy track to the mine winding our way up to the altiplano through a deep canyon with only enough room for us and the road...and a few trucks.
At the mine we talked our way through "security" and proceeded to ride around the works. However when we stopped to take some photographs we were descended upon by security forces. From all directions little red pickup trucks zoomed towards us with beacons flashing. The windows lowered effortlessly and we were unceremoniously told to vacate the premises. OK! No problem. We had seen what we wanted. We left in peace.
Back on Routa 1 we moved north to Iquique. We were unprepared for the progressive, westerness of the town. Behind the new, upscale facade of the southern extension of the city lurked the Victorian gingerbread town of the Nitrate years. Nitrate had built this town and its wonderful architecture. Fish meal sustained it as well as the largest Duty Free Port in Chile. A lot of the town is in decay but a large section is undergoing regeneration and preservation. It will take time but will truly be a Victorian gem when it is finished.
Next HU Events
- Brazil: Feb 22-23
- Germany: May 29-June 1
- HUBB UK: June 19-22
- NEW! Canada Maritimes: July 4-6
- USA Colorado: July 11-13
- Ireland: July 18-20
- Canada West: Aug 21-24
- USA North Carolina: Sept. 4-7
- Canada Ontario: Sept. 11-14
- NEW! UK - Haggs Bank: Sept. 19-21
- USA California: Sept. 25-28
- Aus Queensland: Oct 3-6
- Aus Perth: Oct 10-12
- Aus VIC: Oct 24-26
- NEW! South Africa: Nov 14-16
Horizons Unlimited DVD Special - it's time to Get Ready!
Northerners! The weather outside is frightful, so what better time to start planning your next adventure! To help you get started, for February we're taking 30% off the Get Ready! DVD in the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'GETREADY' on your order when you checkout.
10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!
NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!
Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!
New to Horizons Unlimited?
New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!
Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.Read more about Grant & Susan's story
What turns you on to motorcycle travel?
Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!
Books & DVDs
All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.
Membership - Show you're proud to be a Horizons Unlimited Traveller!
Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events such as this one (18 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.
You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.
MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!
Story and photos copyright © All Rights Reserved.
Contact the author:
Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.
Hosted by: Horizons
Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!